Hope you have been well.
This morning when I scooped the dry leaves on the street for our compost, I realised it was already Autumn and I hadn’t been taking care of my health in preparation for winter. Instead Anett and I have been out hunting for spicy food; my vegetarian home-cooking had been replaced by our favourite jalapeño deep fried fish burger at The Fish Shop, while we keep on non-stop seeking anything that brings back our Asian memories from Happy Chef in Chinatown food court to Long Chim in the city to Taste of Shanghai in Hurstville (note I am not recommending these restaurants but you should try!).
It has to stop. According to Chinese and Indian medicine, we should have a well-balanced diet and lifestyle in autumn so that we don’t get sick easily in winter. I am writing this letter share with you tips to maintain this balance in the season (also in the hope of letting go my beloved spicy food).
1. The Autumn Tiger
In China we call this transitional period ‘Autumn Tiger’ for its unpredictable temperature changes and dry air. Haunted by the Autumn Tiger we usually have dry throat, constipation, dry skin, dry lips as humidity decreases. Imagine now I keep sneezing in my dry nose and I can hardly move my withered tree branch fingers; but as I type, flakes of skin fall down to my keyboard, sinking down to inside of my laptop, so dry that they cause sparks and short circuit and finally come back out to electrocute me.
The Autumn Tiger is serious.
2. Setting boundaries for the Autumn Tiger
In Chinese medicine, autumn is associated with Metal and Lungs. This season is about governing organisation, setting limits and boundaries. It is the harvest time so one should finish the projects that are started in Spring or Summer. In this season, new projects should focus on those that cultivate the inner self.
The health of the lungs should be well looked after this season. The energy of the lungs is ‘letting go’, which says a lot while all the tress are shaking off their leaves now. Only if we were trees, letting go would be effortless – we just wait till autumn and … shake!
The article on chinesemedicineliving.com explains thoroughly about the lungs and grief/sadness, and their relationship with the large intestine (WTF?+how?). I suggest you have a read.
3. Nurturing the lungs
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine Organ Times, 3-5am is the period when the lungs repair themselves. First of all, make sure you have quality sleep during the period. You will then need to exercise as it detoxifies the lungs.
Three important ways to nurture the lungs in autumn:
1. Reducing the heat in your body;
2. Nurturing the lungs means nurturing the ‘Yin’;
3. Improving your gut health.
In autumn, one should eat less spicy food (I am going to quit spicy food now!); more alkaline food, less acidic food; more warm food, less cold food.
4.White foods, good lungs
Chinese medicine suggests to eat according the colours of the seasons. The colour white belongs to Metal (Autumn) in the Five Elements and it is recommended to eat ‘white’ foods in the season, such as lily bulbs (one of my favourite foods), white fungus, pear, sesame seeds, lotus seeds, lotus root, walnut, almonds, sticky rice, cauliflower and fish. Note bird’s nest, a Chinese delicacy said to be the best for the lungs, is dismissed here.
Apart from the above, peanuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and chestnuts are especially good for autumn for their warming properties.
5. Orange peel porridge
It is recommend to eat more porridge in autumn. A good orange peel porridge recipe:
1. Cook rice till boiled;
2. Cut half orange peels into thin strips & soak and cut white fungus into pieces;
3. Throw them into rice, cook for 30-45 mins;
4. Serve with goji berries and honey.
Alternatively, you can use dried orange peels if you have any. I recommend you try out the recipe – not only do you get to sooth your lungs, but also save your orange peels from the bin. This recipe is also a remedy for coughing.
6. White fungus, lotus seeds and red dates soup
A ‘beauty soup’ thus many Chinese girls’ favourite. Hydrating, excellent for the skin and women’s health. Recipe:
1. Soak lotus seeds for 3 hours or more, cook it till soft;
2. Soak white fungus until it blooms, cut up and throw away the hard piece (note get the yellow fungus not the pure white one);
3. In a bowl of water cook white fungus, lotus seeds and red dates for 15 minutes;
4. Serve with brown sugar;
5. Feeling fabulous the next day.
The Chinese ingredients mentioned above can be found in any Chinese grocery shop in Chinatown. If you would like any more Chinese healing recipes, hit REPLY to ask (I go ask my mum!).
7. One last wisdom from Ayurveda (Indian medicine)
In Ayurveda, autumn is associated with the Pitta (hot) and Vata (cold) mind-body types. The Vata disturbance in Autumn can cause anxiety and stress if your body is imbalance. Apart from healthy diet and sleep, which I think quite similar to Chinese medicine, it is recommended that you do light yoga and meditation for the overactive Vata mind. Vata thrives on regularity and routine, therefore consistency is especially important in keeping your health up in autumn.
Remember, our body, mind and soul are a whole.
PS. I am presenting a panel discussion on having a creative food career with Katherine Sabbath (cake creative), Nikki To (photographer) and Chef Clayton Wells (Automata), Emma Joyce (Time Out Sydney) and Cam Mackellar at Vivid Ideas this year. It will be great to see you there. More info at Evolving a Tasty Niche.
Wishing you a happy and healthy May ahead,